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Mo Yan’s Nobel Banquet Speech

Newly minted Nobel-laureate Mo Yan picked up his prize in Stockholm this past Monday.

His speech will do little to appease his critics (including Salman Rushdie, who with typical applomb called Mo Yan a “patsy” of the regime). It neither criticized government censorship nor called for the release of fellow Nobel Laureate dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Instead, the writer said that for “a farm boy from Gaomi’s Northeast Township in far-away China, standing here in this world-famous hall after having received the Nobel Prize in Literature feels like a fairy tale, but of course it is true.”

The closest reference to politics cames when Mo said, “I am also well aware that literature only has a minimal influence on political disputes or economic crises in the world, but its significance to human beings is ancient. When literature exists, perhaps we do not notice how important it is, but when it does not exist, our lives become coarsened and brutal. For this reason, I am proud of my profession, but also aware of its importance.”

Instead, he spoke of the impact that his rural upbringing had on his work, ending his speech: “I was, am and always will be one of you. I also thank the fertile soil that gave birth to me and nurtured me. It is often said that a person is shaped by the place where he grows up. I am a storyteller, who has found nourishment in your humid soil. Everything that I have done, I have done to thank you!”

Read the full speech here.

Mo Yan Wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

And the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature is…

Mo Yan!

The BLF 2009 alum Mo Yan, author of Red Sorghum and Big Breasts and Wide Hips, beat out early favorite Haruki Murakami to take home the field’s top honor. Announcing the decision, The Nobel Committee cited Mo’s use of “hallucinatory realism” to merge “folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

Peter Englund, head of the Swedish Academy, says of Mo’s work:

“He writes about the peasantry, about life in the countryside, about people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing. The basis for his books was laid when as a child he listened to folktales. The description magical realism has been used about him, but I think that is belittling him – this isn’t something he’s picked up from Gabriel García Márquez, but something which is very much his own. With the supernatural going in to the ordinary, he’s an extremely original narrator.”

Mo Yan in conversation with Howard Goldblatt at BLF 2009

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